After a season that has given them precious little to do but fill generic companion roles, The Ponds finally get an episode that is focused upon them and their two lives as The Doctor and a new UNIT investigate the mysterious appearance of billions of mysterious black cubes all over the Earth. Great character work by the supporting cast sells this episode though the ending falls a bit flat. Still, an enjoyable story.
Set over the course of one year, we follow The Ponds as they struggle to maintain their double lives - going off on adventures with The Doctor and balancing time with their family and friends on Earth. By their best guess they've spent 10 years running around with The Doctor in relative time while their regular lives were put on hold as one second honeymoon winds up taking them seven weeks and involves a detour through King Henry VIII's bedchambers.
As the two consider hanging it all up and Rory takes on a full-time nursing job, billions of mysterious black cubes appear all over the earth. They don't seem to do anything. You can freeze them, heat them, watch them, ignore them and they still don't do anything. Naturally this attracts the attention of The Doctor as well as the new leader of UNIT - a woman named Kate Stewart, who has pushed the organization to become more science-driven rather than military-based. Over the course of a year, The Doctor will struggle to avoid boredom, The Ponds will try and figure things out and the cubes will be studied by experts and amateurs alike as what will become known as The Slow Invasion begins.
THE GOOD PARTS
* Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill own this episode. They're both great actors but they've been given precious little to do this season that didn't have them filling the stock companion roles of girl hostage and boy idiot. The focus this time is firmly upon their characters and they run with the ball they've been passed.
* Kate Stewart. Hell and Yes. I hated that we never got to see Nicholas Courtney as The Brigadier in any of the New Who episodes working with The Doctor again. Bringing his daughter into the show as an admirer or both her father's work and The Doctor's example - to say nothing of the return of a UNIT not run by jack-booted thugs - is a welcome addition.
* There is a subtle but brilliant implication here that we may have been viewing some of this series' episodes out of sequence... or perhaps that The Doctor we've seen is out of sequence. With the hint of a tragic ending coming up in the final Ponds episode next week we have to wonder... is The Doctor we are seeing now a future Doctor, come back to see more of a companion he may have led to their deaths?
* The menace of the cubes, once revealed, is dispatched FAR too easily.
* Matt Smith seems to be playing The Doctor as a parody of Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock at times. This is nowhere near as amusing as you might think.
* What was the point of the alien abductions in Rory's hospital? Or the cube-faced alien orderlies? Whey are they abducting and killing the beings they are trying to kill through genocide?
* The Power of Three has got to be one of the blandest episode titles ever and the "reveal" at the end only makes it seem cheesy rather than clever.
THE FINAL VERDICT
The ending is dodgy as Hell but that doesn't detract from the amazing material in the opening. The conceit of The Slow Invasion is a brilliant one and the character moments built around The Ponds are beautiful. And the new UNIT with The Brig's daughter in charge promises to make future stories in the modern day a bit more interesting. It would have been perfect if it hadn't fallen apart at the end.